FIRE PREPAREDNESS ARTICLES & RESOURCES:
The 2020 California wildfire season has caused historic losses of life, property, and wildlands. Southern California, one of the most fire-prone environments in the world, has more homes and area burned per decade than any other region in the United States. As wildfires are part of the ecosystem, it’s of utmost importance we prepare our homes and property for this threat.
Until very recently, wildfire was not a landscape professional’s concern. Several factors have combined to make it one today. Homes in wild places like forests and mountains are increasingly popular and feasible. Population growth is pushing development into new lands, some covered with “fire-adapted” vegetation that requires periodic burning to reproduce or compete with other species. Flight from cities perceived as dangerous and suburbs perceived as boring has motivated a new back-to-nature exodus. Instant communication, telecommuting, and four-wheel drive allow living comfortably in the wilds.
We hear a somewhat controversial perspective on managing fire risk around homes and properties. We discuss a compelling solution: transitional landscape from human habitation to transitional spaces and then into forest.
Our guest, Kim Sorvig, is a research associate professor at the University of New Mexico and a George Pearl fellow, which is an honor given to professionals whose work encourages discourse and positive change in architecture, planning, and historic preservation.
The western United States has experienced an unprecedented year of wildfires and drought in 2021. In California, we have been adapting our gardens for our summer-dry mediterranean climate, but with climate change projections, we will have longer periods of extended drought coupled with intense periods of rain in addition to increased wildfire activity. Many places that have typically not been impacted by severe or prolonged drought and wildfire have been affected, such as the Pacific Northwest.
05. Restoring Fire: Prescribed Burn at Quamash Prairie Reconnects Land, Culture, and Habitat, Metro News. January 2, 2020.
Since time immemorial until the arrival of white colonists, fires regularly burned the area that became greater Portland. Lightning-made fires would spark up in overgrown places, clearing out excess fuel like dead bushes and down branches over a few acres.
The region’s Indigenous people used fire extensively. Tribes, bands and families burned prairies to harvest tarweed seeds and woodlands to gather acorns, shaping and molding the ecosystem to favor habitats and plants that sustained their diverse societies and cultures. Sustained – and still sustain.
With Dr. Nancy Shackelford, Restoration Futures Lab director, and assistant professor of environmental studies at the University of Victoria British Columbia.
“In this context, restoration has a lot of meanings. One of those meanings is yes, trying to support the plant species, but it’s also trying to rebuild and support those relationships with people and the practices and the traditions and the histories and the cultures that really existed with those ecosystems. And so in this context, restoration really has a very strong human-nature combination and combined values.” Dr. Nancy Shackelford
An older compilation of resources:
Pacific Horticulture | After the Fires (2017/2018)
Fire is powerful, consuming, and terrifying—quite literally, a force of nature. The devastating fires in 2017 were a wake-up call to assess vulnerable landscapes and do what we can to fireproof our gardens, and in turn provide a measure of protection to homes and property. Here at Pacific Horticulture, we’ve compiled a roundup of digital resources for gardeners facing recovery as well as anyone interested in creating a resilient, fire-safe landscape in a dry region.